Measure 26-204 - November 2019 Special Election - City of Portland

Referred to the People by the City Council


Amends Charter: Increases protections for Bull Run Watershed.

Question: Shall Charter be amended to increase Bull Run Watershed protections by restricting access, regulating allowed activities and limiting land uses?

Summary: The measure adds a new Charter section establishing protections for City lands within the Bull Run Watershed Closure Area, the location of the City’s primary drinking water source and hydroelectric facilities. The Charter currently does not protect the Bull Run Watershed. The measure will codify watershed protections in the Charter and, if passed, the protections may only be removed by an affirmative vote of Portlanders.

Protections include:

  • Public access restrictions
  • Tree-cutting prohibitions
  • Land use and activity limits
  • Drinking water or hydroelectric projects must avoid and then mitigate impacts to the natural environment

The Bull Run Watershed Closure Area includes the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit-– which is jointly managed by the City and the United States Forest Service-– and additional land to the west which is managed exclusively by the City. The Bull Run Watershed Closure Area is managed to provide high-quality drinking water for the Portland metropolitan area.

Explanatory Statement

Portland City Council unanimously approved a resolution referring a City Charter amendment to increase protections for the Bull Run Watershed to the Portland voters for the November 5, 2019 ballot.  The resolution was sponsored by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, as the Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Water Bureau.

If passed, the proposed amendment would add environmental and land-use limitations for the Bull Run Watershed – Portland’s primary drinking water source – to the City Charter. The proposed limitations currently exist in City Code, but those limitations can be amended or removed by City Council. The current Charter does not reference the Bull Run Watershed. Because the City Charter can only be amended by Portland voters in an election, the proposed amendment would provide long-term conservation of the Watershed unless Portland voters decide to change the limitations in the future. 

The current provisions in City Code proposed to be added to the City Charter would:

  • prohibit the public from entering the watershed, with specified exceptions;
  • prohibit tree cutting for any purpose not related to the City’s drinking water or hydroelectric systems; and
  • prohibit transferring City-owned lands or infrastructure to private business or organizations.

If the amendment is not passed, the environmental and land-use limitations for the Bull Run Watershed would continue to exist exclusively in City Code and would be subject to amendment by the City Council.

Submitted by

Amanda Fritz, Commissioner
City of Portland

No arguments in Opposition to this measure were filed.


Keep Bull Run water safe, secure and abundant for future generations

The Bull Run Watershed has been the source of Portland’s drinking water for over 100 years. Located in the foothills of Mt. Hood, it provides consistent, high-quality drinking water for Portlanders and hundreds of thousands of Metro-area residents. Your vote for this ballot measure will ensure safe and abundant Bull Run drinking water for generations to come. The future of Portland’s water depends on your Yes vote, to make sure the water we love stays accountable to Portland voters.

Currently, Portland City Code provides protections against development and tree-cutting in the watershed that nurtures Bull Run water. But City Code can be changed by a future City Council’s vote. The City Charter is Portland’s Constitution. If you vote Yes to put today’s Code protections for the Bull Run watershed into the City Charter, only Portland voters will be able to allow development or other activities such as tree-cutting in our water source in the future. Only Portland voters will be able to approve a transfer to any private entity of City land or infrastructure within the Bull Run Watershed Closure Area that is integral to the delivery of municipal water.

I was a Registered Nurse working at OHSU for over two decades before Portlanders elected me to serve on your City Council eleven years ago. I know that fresh, pure drinking water is the most basic service Portlanders need. I am only the second woman ever to be the Commissioner in charge of the Portland Water Bureau. I see a huge gap that the Charter has no mention of the Bull Run drinking water supply. Please join me in voting Yes on this common-sense measure to make sure our drinking water is owned by the people of Portland.

Thank you,

Amanda Fritz

Portland City Commissioner

(This information furnished by Amanda Fritz.)


Please vote YES to protect the Bull Run Watershed and Portland’s water supply.

The Bull Run Watershed on the Mt. Hood National Forest has been providing pure, high-quality drinking water for the City of Portland since 1895. There is nothing more fundamental to a healthy community than protecting our drinking water.

Measure 26-204 would enshrine protections for lands owned by the City of Portland in the Bull Run Watershed in the Portland City Charter where they could only be changed by Portland voters in a future election. Currently, Bull Run protections on City-owned lands can much more easily be weakened by a simple vote of the City Council.

Securing these protections is essential to protecting not only our drinking water, but also the Bull Run’s old growth forests and providing a largely undisturbed refuge for fish and wildlife including threatened salmon populations and northern spotted owls.

Measure 26-204 will ensure that these lands remain largely closed to public access, commercial logging, other land-disturbing activities, and sale to private entities. It will help ensure that this amazing place that provides drinking water for nearly 1 million people will remain protected in perpetuity.

Please vote YES on 26-204 to give the pure water, ancient forests, and fish and wildlife populations of the Bull Run the protection they need and deserve.

Join these leading conservation, community health, and environmental justice organizations in voting YES on 26-204!

Audubon Society of Portland
Center for Sustainable Economy
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Oregon Wild
Sandy River Watershed Council
Sierra Club, Oregon Chapter
Urban Greenspace Institute
Wild Salmon Center
Willamette Riverkeeper

(This information furnished by Robert Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland.)

The printing of these arguments does not constitute an endorsement by Multnomah County, nor does the county warrant the accuracy or truth of any statements made in the arguments.